fbpx

Top 10 Best Phoenixes in MTG – Riley Ranks

Phoenixes have been a big part of Magic’s history, going all the way back to Bogardan Phoenix from Visions. True to the cultural myths and legends that surround them, every single Phoenix in Magic except one (Screeching Phoenix) has a recursion ability, referencing how Phoenixes are reborn from the ashes after death. Given how well-established Phoenixes are in Magic, however, you might be surprised to learn that only just around 30 of them have been printed! Nemesis Phoenix, from the upcoming Baldur’s Gate Commander set, takes the total to 32. Let’s have a look at some of the best Phoenixes from this surprisingly short list!

 

 

10. Bogardan Phoenix

Bogardan Phoenix

Here’s where it all began. Bogardan Phoenix established how Phoenixes would work in Magic: flying red birds with a recursion ability that brings them back from the graveyard. Now, admittedly, Bogardan Phoenix isn’t that good, as a five-mana 3/3 flyer has to have a lot more than what effectively amounts to a shield counter these days, but it set a firm precedent for how Magic’s Phoenixes would be handled from a mechanical standpoint, and that approach hasn’t really changed in over two decades. 

9. Chandra’s Phoenix

Chandra's Phoenix

Chandra’s Phoenix already has a lot more going for it than Bogardan Phoenix – not that that’s saying much – but it’s one of the rare Phoenixes that returns to hand rather than to the battlefield. Still, a three-mana hasty flyer puts in work, and it’s very easy to recur Chandra’s Phoenix assuming your deck is set up with a respectable burn suite. Forcing your opponent to face down burn spells and an indefatigable source of evasive damage can sometimes be too much, and Phoenixes don’t come much cheaper than three mana!

8. Lightning Phoenix

Lightning Phoenix

Speaking of three-mana Phoenixes, Lightning Phoenix is a fixture in EDH Phoenix decks as a way to fill out the curve with efficient, hasty, recursive threats. Dealing at least three damage a turn to an opponent isn’t a high bar for most red decks to clear, and Lightning Phoenix can then come straight back to the battlefield to do it all over again for just one single red mana. Note the “can’t block” clause – quite a few Phoenixes (and recursive creatures in general) have restrictions like this, as we’ll see. 

7. Ashcloud Phoenix

Ashcloud Phoenix

A lot of the fun with playing morphs is keeping your opponent guessing as to what could be hiding under that face-down 2/2, and Ashcloud Phoenix does take a little bit of the fun out of that. Nonetheless, demanding two back-to-back removal spells to kill this sticky, high-power threat makes Ashcloud Phoenix a respectable beater, and sneaking in an extra two damage to the table when it’s flipped up can make all the difference. Morph decks can do ridiculous stuff at the best of times, but sometimes you just need to pile on some damage – and Ashcloud Phoenix is the bird for the job. 

6. Flamewake Phoenix

Flamewake Phoenix

Here’s a Phoenix that saw a good amount of Standard play. Activating ferocious really wasn’t difficult in the decks that played it, and if you let your guard down it was all-too-common for opponents to go from an empty board to playing a four-power creature, bringing back a couple of Phoenixes, and getting in for immediate damage. Of course, it wasn’t so good on defense, as it had to attack every turn, but that wasn’t much of a cost to pay for these aggro decks. It was tough to be aggressive in a world dominated by Siege Rhino, but Flamewake Phoenix went a long way in making the aggro strategies playable. 

5. Sunstreak Phoenix

Sunstreak Phoenix

This card has really taken off since its recent printing, as a mainstay in EDH Phoenix decks while also being sprinkled through Werewolf lists as well. Why? Werewolf decks don’t always have the best evasive options (there’s plenty of trampling Werewolves, sure, but that doesn’t solve every problem), and so Sunstreak Phoenix is a way for these decks to keep the pressure up in the air while flipping back between day and night, just like they want to anyway. 

4. Phoenix of Ash

Phoenix of Ash

Phoenix of Ash was a massive part of last year’s Standard format, particularly given how popular the Dimir Rogues deck was and how important it was to have cards that took advantage of their attempts to mill you out. Phoenix of Ask put all those cards that Soaring Thought-Thief had milled over to good use, escaping over and over again as well as – critically – blocking, something that not every easily-recurred Phoenix can do. Then, when the time came, its firebreathing ability could seal the deal – Phoenix of Ash was a very important piece of technology in the Standard of yesteryear. 

3. Rekindling Phoenix

Rekindling Phoenix

A few Standard formats before that, however, there was a Phoenix that was even more dominant. Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan quite famously didn’t offer up a huge number of powerful cards, but amongst the best of them was Rekindling Phoenix. This card demanded two removal spells to deal with it properly, and was one of the reasons that Vraska’s Contempt, what is effectively a four-mana Hero’s Downfall, was such a popularly-played card. Even today, Rekindling Phoenix is one of the better Phoenixes ever printed, just because it is so hard to remove. 

2. Syrix, Carrier of the Flame

Syrix, Carrier of the Flame

It took a long time for Phoenixes to get a dedicated commander, but the recent printing of Syrix, Carrier of the Flame changed all that. Of course, there aren’t all that many Phoenixes to fill out Syrix lists – especially lower on the curve – but it’s still possible to build a hybrid Phoenix/reanimator deck that makes the most of Syrix’s ability suite. Rewarding you for playing a natural Phoenix-based game, and enabling black cards to be included for extra reanimation and self-mill effects, Syrix decks already look like good fun. 

1. Arclight Phoenix

Arclight Phoenix

The best Phoenix ever printed has remained a Constructed staple ever since it joined us in Guilds of Ravnica. This card has dominated every format from Standard to Modern, enabled by cheap (and often blue) cantrips that make it easy to bring it back from the bin over and over again. It hits hard and fast, and nutty starts can see multiple Phoenixes attacking as early as turn two. Critically, too, Arclight Phoenix can block, meaning that even if you’re not on the front foot, you can cycle through your Considers and Opts in order to bring it back as a three-power blocker. Arclight Phoenix is the best Phoenix ever printed, and it’s not particularly close.

 

1 thought on “Top 10 Best Phoenixes in MTG – Riley Ranks”

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top